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User Experience (UX) Design Tips

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User Experience (UX) Design Tips

User Experience (UX) design can be traced back to the early days of computing when the first graphical user interface (GUI) was developed in the 1970s at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center.

The term "User Experience" was coined in the mid-1990s by Don Norman, a cognitive scientist who was then working at Apple. He wrote a book called "The Design of Everyday Things" in which he introduced the concept of "user-centered design".

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the rise of the internet, UX design became increasingly important as more and more companies began to offer online services and products.

Today, UX design is an essential part of the product development process, and companies of all sizes invest heavily in creating products and services that are user-friendly, accessible, and enjoyable to use. UX designers work on everything from websites and mobile apps to physical products, and the field continues to evolve and grow as new technologies and design trends emerge.

If you haven't already, check out our BCS Foundation Certificate in User Experience course for more information on UX

As you can tell UX is a very broad subject, many courses keep to the basics of user experience with key concepts and processes, here are a few of our tips you might not find anywhere else;

User Experience (UX) Design Tips Title

UX Tip 1: User testing

Listen to the data and not your own opinions. We have all been there, getting attached to ideas that you have come up with, because you think it is the best solution for the problem. But this is not always the case.

Looking at the data when usability testing will give you an indication of how well your design relates to the user.

Looking back at past similar interfaces may also give an insight to how users react to certain features. Often the tried and tested solutions are the best.

A/B testing and multivariate testing can help test elements within an interface, you firstly need to set out your success criteria to define what makes ‘A’ more effective than ‘B’. You can use this type of testing in usability testing or in a live environment. Normally the more users testing this method the better the data will be.

When testing systems, it is helpful for some of the users to have impairments to test that you are hitting all their needs as these users may well be using your interface differently than non-impaired users.

UX Tip 2: UX Design research

Research in UX is key.

Research your competitors, look at what your competitors are doing. Maybe even get someone to usability test it and come up with improvements before creating your design and wireframes. If its not possible to test your competitors then maybe organisation doing similar things.

Research similar systems that you are trying to create. Compare already existing interfaces with each other and analyse themes and outliers of those systems.

Once you are happy with the design you want to proceed with its time to make a wireframe or prototype. In this stage you can do testing and research before moving forward to evolutionary prototyping. Some methods of testing in this phase are:

Tree testing - This lets you test your menu structure against the user’s logic of how to find elements without a search bar.

Eye tracking – This lets you track a user’s eye movements. See how the user thinks and what elements catches their attention when using your interface.

Heat maps – Heat maps allow you to tack a users mouse movements, what they hover over and click with a visual representations.

UX Tip 3: Inclusive Design

Inclusive design. Always.

I’ll give you an example, here at Purple Griffon we offer E-Learning courses to customers. We were using a popular supplier until one day a customer asked if our E-Learning came with subtitles because she is hearing impaired. Our E-Learning platform did not support that functionality. Long story short, we are moving all our E-Learning to a new platform that does offer this feature for future inclusive design.

There are many different people in the world with disabilities and different needs, some of these individuals will be part of your users. Making your interface usable and giving them the best experience possible when completing their task is important.

Here are some interesting facts for you about disabilities:

Around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are colour blind.

0.49% of people have visual impairments, that’s 1 in 200.

11 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing.

Don’t get me wrong, it is impossible to create an interface that is truly compatible with every persons needs but creating an interface that meets 99.9% of users requirements is very important.

I bet nearly every single person reading this has chosen a picture or colour scheme to go on an interface, whether that’s a leaflet, website, poster. But did you think I wonder what it looks like for someone who is colour blind? Convert your designs to grayscale or a basic colour palette to ensure all colour-blind users can read important information.

UX Tip 4: Consistency

Keeping consistent colours, shapes, fonts, and many other kinds of aspects the same across your interface helps users feel the flow of your design.

Once a user has experienced a few elements of your interface they can keep expecting every other element to be the same. If not, it may make the user feel uncomfortable and ruin their experience. Consistency should improve efficient use of your system.

Changing subtle styling elements like font or small colour changes most likely won’t affect a user’s experience, but majorly changing page layouts from page to page will ensure a negative effect on their user experience.

Users normally expect a button on a website to do something whereas a hyperlink takes the user somewhere. This is the same across all interfaces.

If a user is already experienced with your organisation, they expect the same consistency throughout every interface your organisation uses. For example, keep your font, colour and style the same within emails, websites and documents. You can consult your organisations style guide to keep this consistent.

UX Tip 5: Visually distinct

Make important elements visually distinct. Make crucial elements that users need to interact with stand out, distinctive and intuitive to make it easier for the user to know what they need to do without having to think about it.

Be aware of the contrast on mobile websites, not all users will be using their mobile devices in an “ideal” scenario or environment. screen glare can render your website unusable for users in sunny climates.

Reserve one colour for Calls to Action (CTAs) on your interface and don't use it for anything else, preferably a colour brighter and eye catching than the rest. This draws the user towards that element before any of the others making their interaction flow easier through your interface.

Make hyperlinks in text easy to recognise by changing the colour of the text and underlining the copy.

UX Tip 6: How to Test

Testing is imperative. Testing is the only way to see if users will interact with the interface as it was intended to. It is also the only way the test whether it solves the user problem or not. Not only is testing vital, but the way you test is just as important:

No leading questions when conducting interviews. Ask questions like “how did you feel”, “What about this task did you find difficult?” or “what did you like/dislike?” Don’t ask leading questions like “How much do you enjoy using [product]?” or “Our services met your needs, right?”

Ask for permission to record someone and permission from the business, not only record what the user is doing with the interface but video the users face for facial expressions. Conduct an interview after with feelings and thoughts just facts.

Also having the user speak aloud whilst interacting with the product and getting them to say what they are doing and thinking through the processes of completing a task. By hearing their thoughts live as they are doing it you can pick up on pain points or ways to improve their customer experience.

Face to face testing and research is better than through emails or video calls as you can get a true feel of how users interact with the interface.

Multivariate and A/B testing is helpful when testing small elements with large amount of users. It gives you data on which element is better but doesn’t go into depth on why one element is better than the other.

When testing try to avoid group testing as social pressures can skew results not giving you the best data on your interface.

UX Tip 7: Testing is iterative

UX testing is iterative, do not produce the interface, test once, make changes and proceed with rollout/launch.

User experience testing needs to be iterative from the very start of the project until the very end. Testing theories, then wireframes, mock-ups and prototypes.

Tree testing is the testing of the hierarchy of an interface like a website. Asking users to find a certain page. For example Home – iPhone – iPhone 14 is the breadcrumb of how to find the iPhone 14 on Apple’s website. By testing this you can see the users logic of what sub page should lead to another. This is important for the users flow through an interface to find what they are looking for easily.

Wireframes are the bare minimum of starting to test elements within an interface. The placement of content, buttons and such can be tested in this stage.

Prototypes are an interface which is very nearly complete. In this stage you can test colours, users journey, thoughts and feelings, and functionality depending on high or low fidelity prototypes.

Testing iteratively is important to find problems in an interface early and rectifying it rather than finding many problems at the end and having to overhaul the entire project. Doing iterative UX testing creates a better more polished interface for users.

UX Tip 8: Use Real Content

Once you are beyond the wireframe stage use real content when designing and not lorem ipsum or place holder graphics.

Use real content when creating mock-ups and prototypes, it may take longer to produce but it makes the user testing more accurate giving better data if your solution will work.

By creating real content, it may increase the time creating the prototype, but it will also decrease time producing the final completed interface. Creating prototypes this way will also paint a better picture of how users feel while interacting with your product.

It also increases exposure time of viewers looking at the content and may spot clerical errors faster before release.

UX Tip 9: Keep it simple

Keep it simple. Simple is sometimes best, often the simple solution is the best solution.

Users understand simple elements better, often without help from documentation. An element that does not need any user to refer to documentation or have text near it saying what it does is best. Take your laptop or PC, I bet the power button does not say “Power” or “Turn On/Off” I bet it is a button on its own away from all others with either a little symbol or light indicator on it? This is a perfect example of great UX. Even people who have not used a PC or Laptop before knows what the button does.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

There are many day-to-day examples of this. Often referring to similar interfaces will give you an answer to what users expect from certain elements. If 9 out of 10 organisations do the same thing, it will be expected by users that yours follows the same theme.

UX Tip 10: UX is not UI

UX is not (only) UI. This is a common mistake within UX, User Interface (UI) is the interaction between a user and an interface. UX is the emotions a user is feeling interacting with a product or service.

User experience (UX) design deals with the overall experience a user has when interacting with a interface or product. With this in mind it is important to understand your user and their needs, goals and struggles. In a digital space UX deals with the ease of use, for example how easy it is to navigate a website and are the successive steps intuitive for the user to complete their goal?

User interface (UI) design is a more technical approach than UX that looks at optimising the interaction between people and digital systems. UI anticipates the needs of users and builds specific inputs to get a user where they need and want to go. For example, the hierarchy of a website. Through the use of icons, buttons, visual elements, and colour, UI tries to make the interaction with users and an interface as intuitive as possible.

Both are developed with the end users in mind. One focuses on the overall customers experience, and the other focuses on the interaction between the user and the interface. UI deals only with digital devices and the user’s ability to interact them, whereas UX deals with the user’s interaction with your brand, product or service.

UX Tip 11: Recognition over recall

Showing users icons and elements they can recognise improves usability versus needing to recall items from scratch.

Due to the limitations of human memory, UX should ensure that users can automatically recognise how to use certain features of their product instead of making them recall this information.

Strive to minimize cognitive load by making information and interface functions visible and easily accessible.

A great example of this is automatically remembering users’ preferences. Logging them into an account automatically, having the same functionality as other similar interfaces, and so on.

Where you left off. YouTube and Netflix are good examples of this, carry on watching a video from where you left it rather than having to flick through the video to find where you last left it.

UX Tip 12: Use clear and concise language

Use language that is easy to understand and avoid technical jargon. Write copy that is concise, unambiguous and to the point.

Using clear and concise language is an essential part of UX design. It helps users quickly understand what your product is about and how to use it. Here are some tips to help you use clear and concise language in your UX design:

Avoid jargon: Use language that is easy to understand and avoid using technical jargon that may be confusing to users. If you must use technical terms, explain them in simple language.

Use simple sentences: Write short, simple sentences that are easy to read and understand. Avoid long sentences that may be difficult to follow.

Be specific: Use specific language to describe your product's features and benefits. Instead of using vague language, provide concrete examples of what your product can do.

Use active voice: Use active voice in your writing to make it more engaging and easier to understand. Passive voice can be confusing and difficult to follow.

Avoid redundancy: Use only the words you need to convey your message. Avoid using redundant language that can clutter your interface and confuse users.

Use visuals: Use visuals such as icons and images to supplement your text. Visuals can help users quickly understand what your product is about and how to use it.

Have clear titles: by having clear titles and subtitles users can easily flick to what section they are looking for completing their goals quicker.

Overall, clear and concise language is essential in UX design because it helps users understand your product and how to use it. By following these tips, you can create a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and understand.

UX Tip 13: Stay up-to-date with UX trends

Stay current with UX trends and best practices to ensure your product is competitive and user-friendly. Attend conferences, read blogs, and network with other UX designers to stay informed.

Staying up-to-date with UX trends is crucial for UX designers who want to create user-friendly interfaces that meet the evolving needs of users. Here are some reasons why it's important to stay up-to-date with UX trends:

User expectations are constantly changing: As technology evolves and new products are released, user expectations for user experience also change. To keep up with user expectations, UX designers need to stay current with the latest trends and best practices.

New tools and technologies become available: New tools and technologies are constantly being developed that can improve the user experience. By staying up to date with UX trends, designers can learn about new tools and technologies that can enhance their design process.

Design standards and practices change: Design standards and practices change over time as new research emerges and best practices are refined. By staying current with UX trends, designers can ensure that they are using the most up-to-date standards and practices.

Competition is fierce: Competition is fierce in the technology industry, and companies that fail to keep up with UX trends risk falling behind. By staying current with UX trends, designers can help their organisations stay competitive and offer users the best possible experience.

To stay up-to-date with UX trends, designers can attend conferences and workshops, read industry publications and blogs, and network with other UX professionals. By staying informed about the latest trends and best practices, designers can create interfaces that are both user-friendly and effective.

UX Tip 14: Use white space

Using white space is a crucial aspect of UX design. It refers to the empty space between design elements on a page or screen. Here are some reasons why using white space is important in UX design:

Improves readability: Using white space can improve the readability of text by making it easier to read and less overwhelming for users. It can help separate content into distinct sections, making it easier for users to find what they are looking for rather than a wall of text.

Creates a clean and organised design: White space can help create a clean and organised design by reducing clutter and making it easier for users to focus on the most important elements of the page or screen.

Highlights important elements: White space can be used to highlight important elements, such as call-to-action buttons, by making them stand out from other elements on the page.

Improves user experience: Using white space can improve the overall user experience by making the interface more visually appealing and easier to use. It can also create a sense of balance and harmony in the design.

Designs look more modern: Many modern designs use white space as a way to create a minimalist and modern look. This can help create a positive first impression with users and make your product more appealing.

When using white space in UX design, it's important to strike a balance between too much and too little. Too much white space can make the design look empty and unfinished, while too little can make it look cluttered and overwhelming. By using white space strategically, you can create a user-friendly and visually appealing interface that enhances the user experience.

UX Tip 15: Use microinteractions

Microinteractions are small, focused, and contained interactive moments in a product that are designed to help users achieve a specific task or goal, like a scroll bar. They are a key element of modern UX design and can help improve the overall user experience in several ways. Some examples of microinteractions include:

  • The like button on social media
  • Progress bars
  • Tooltips
  • Gestures on touchscreen devices
  • Animations and transitions

Here are some reasons why using microinteractions is important in UX design:

Enhance the user experience: Microinteractions can enhance the user experience by making interactions more engaging and satisfying. They can add personality and emotion to a product, making it more memorable and enjoyable to use.

Provide feedback: Microinteractions can provide feedback to users, letting them know that an action has been completed successfully. This can help build user confidence and trust in the product.

Guide users: Microinteractions can guide users through complex or unfamiliar interactions, making it easier for them to achieve their goals. They can also help educate users about product features and functionality.

Improve usability: Microinteractions can improve the usability of a product by making it more intuitive and easier to use. They can help reduce cognitive load by breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.

Differentiate your product: Microinteractions can help differentiate your product from competitors by adding unique and memorable features that are tailored to your users' needs and goals.

When designing microinteractions, it's important to consider the user's emotional state and the context in which the interaction is taking place. The interaction should be designed to be intuitive and easy to use and should provide clear and meaningful feedback to the user. By incorporating microinteractions into your UX design, you can create a more engaging and satisfying user experience that is tailored to your users' needs and goals.

UX Tip 16: Design for mobile

Designing for mobile devices is critical in today's digital landscape. With mobile devices accounting for the majority of internet traffic, it's essential to ensure that your product is optimised for small screens and touch-based interactions. Here are some reasons why designing for mobile is important in UX design:

Improve user experience: Mobile devices are often used in a variety of contexts, such as on-the-go or while multitasking. Designing for mobile can help improve the user experience by making it easier for users to complete tasks quickly and efficiently.

Adapt to different screen sizes: Mobile devices come in a variety of screen sizes, from small smartphones to large tablets. Designing for mobile means creating a responsive design that can adapt to different screen sizes, ensuring that your product looks great and functions well on any device.

Embrace touch-based interactions: Mobile devices are often used with touch-based interactions, such as tapping and swiping. Designing for mobile means embracing these interactions and creating intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that take advantage of touch-based interactions.

Keep up with user expectations: Mobile users have high expectations when it comes to user experience. They expect fast load times, intuitive interfaces, and seamless interactions. Designing for mobile means keeping up with these expectations and delivering a high-quality user experience.

When designing for mobile, it's important to keep in mind the limitations of mobile devices, such as small screens and slower processing speeds. It's also important to consider the context in which the user will be using the product and design the interface accordingly. By designing for mobile, you can create a user-friendly and effective product that meets the needs and expectations of your users.

UX Tip 17: Consider the user's emotional state

Considering the user's emotional state is an important aspect of UX design, as emotions play a significant role in shaping how users interact with digital products. When users have positive emotional experiences with a product, they are more likely to engage with it, recommend it to others, and continue using it over time.

Here are some ways to consider the user's emotional state in UX design:

Use colour psychology: Colours have a strong psychological impact on people and can elicit certain emotions. For example, blue is often associated with trust and reliability, while red can evoke feelings of excitement or urgency. Use colour psychology to create a mood or tone that aligns with the user's emotional needs.

Consider the tone of voice: The tone of voice used in a product can impact the user's emotional response. Consider the tone of voice used in your product's copy, whether it's humorous, informative, or empathetic, and how it will resonate with your target audience.

Design for delight: Designing for delight means creating positive and memorable experiences that exceed the user's expectations. This can be achieved by incorporating small surprises, Easter eggs, or playful animations that make the user smile and feel delighted.

Build trust: Trust is an important factor in building a positive emotional experience. Users are more likely to trust a product that is transparent, reliable, and secure. Build trust by providing clear and concise information, using trustworthy design patterns, and prioritizing security and privacy.

Use microinteractions: As mentioned earlier, microinteractions can enhance the user experience by providing feedback and guidance. They can also be used to create emotional experiences, such as a subtle animation that conveys a feeling of accomplishment or success.

By considering the user's emotional state in UX design, you can create a product that not only meets the user's functional needs but also their emotional needs. This can lead to a more positive and engaging user experience, which in turn can improve customer loyalty, retention, and advocacy.

UX Tip 18: Prioritise performance

Prioritising performance in UX design is critical for creating a positive user experience. Users expect fast load times and smooth performance, and if a product doesn't meet those expectations, they may become frustrated and abandon it. Here are some ways to prioritize performance in UX design:

Optimise images: Images can significantly impact the performance of a product, particularly if they are large or not optimised. Optimise images by compressing them, reducing their file size, and using responsive images that are tailored to the user's device and screen size.

Use caching and compression: Caching and compression can improve performance by reducing the amount of data that needs to be loaded each time a user visits a page. Use tools like Gzip compression to compress files and caching to store commonly accessed files in the user's browser cache.

Minimise scripts and plugins: Scripts and plugins can slow down a product, particularly if they are complex or not optimised. Minimise the use of scripts and plugins by only using what is necessary, optimising the code, and using asynchronous loading where possible.

Prioritise critical content: Prioritise the loading of critical content, such as the main navigation and core functionality, to ensure that users can access the most important features quickly.

Use performance monitoring tools: Use performance monitoring tools to identify performance issues and track improvements over time. Tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse, and WebPageTest can help identify issues like slow load times, large files, and render-blocking scripts.

By prioritising performance in UX design, you can create a product that not only meets the user's functional needs but also provides a smooth and enjoyable user experience. This can lead to increased engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty among users.

Conclusion

In conclusion, User Experience (UX) is a critical element in creating successful and engaging products and services. By focusing on the needs and expectations of users, you can create intuitive, accessible, and enjoyable experiences that not only meet user goals but also drive business success.

From microinteractions to the overall user journey, every aspect of UX design plays a crucial role in creating products that users love and keep coming back to. So, whether you're designing a website, a mobile app, or a physical product, remember to keep UX at the forefront of your design process. By doing so, you can create experiences that are not only functional but also delightful, and ultimately, help you achieve your organisations goals. Thank you for reading our UX tips blog, and we hope to see you again soon!

If you would like to learn more about UX, why not check out our BCS Foundation Certificate in User Experience course!

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About The Author

James Lawless

James Lawless

From a young age I have been interested in media and technology. I look forward to seeing the interesting future of AI and how it will affect ITSM, business processes and day-to-day life. I am passionate about sustainability, gaming, and user experience. At Purple Griffon I oversee creating/maintaining blogs, creating free resources, and general website maintenance. I’m also a keen skier and enjoy going on family skiing holidays

Tel: +44 (0)1539 736 828

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